Rise of the Plastic Parties


A dangerous cosmetic trend has been quickly gaining traction: that of injection house parties. These social gatherings are touted as the 21st century’s version of the old-fashioned Tupperware party – with the difference being that instead of food storage items, aesthetic treatments are being offered in one’s living room. Dr Riekie Smit takes a closer look…

The 1950s defined the very essence of vintage apparel style and glamour. Looking refined and dressing elegantly was the norm – whether one was going to church, the theatre, downtown for some shopping, or even to the beach. It’s no wonder then that many women (myself included), are in awe of this fashion-forward, beauty iconic period.

Moreover, the 50s era introduced the phenomenonof the ‘Tupperware Party’: a get-together that took place at a designated residence where friends (and friends of friends) were invited to socialise, catch up on the latest gossip in town – and buy the newest range of food storage items that were on offer by the hostess.

The popularity of these parties quickly caught on, where it not only became all rage in the 50s but continued to be a trend well into the 21st century.

Pumping parties

Now, while it’s true that the modern-day Tupperware party is still a big thing today, some of these in-house shindigs are offering more than just the latest food storage items or underwear. What we are seeing now are women being lured to house parties for cosmetic procedures such as lip fillers, peels and wrinkle injections. And, if you are not yet convinced to ‘buy’ these procedures on site, then a flute glass of Moët will do the convincing.

In fact, we might as well spice it up even more and start convincing patients to undergo knee replacements early for preventative measures. So, please join my knee replacement party tonight – and if you bring three friends along – you can get yours for free! Furthermore, for those who are a bit afraid, there will be champagne on the ready to relax (and convince) you. It’s always better to do it earlier rather than later.

So okay, maybe the above is a bit harsh and not so relative, but I’m hoping it gets you thinking. After all, cosmetic medical procedures are not without risk and shouldn’t’ be taken lightly. It certainly requires more intensive decision-making than thinking about buying a new range of Tupperware.

Unfortunately, however, this trend has become out of control worldwide, even in very strictly regulated first world countries.

The party module

These glamorous parties usually start off with the hostess inviting guests to attend a function, where the guest of honor is a doctor or plastic surgeon performing a cosmetic procedure or two.  Needless to say, these treatments are done in a rather informal setting, where the ‘fear’ of the medical environment is dampened with the mingling, giggling, champagne and ambiance.

What’s more, these parties not only offer a wrinkle free face, larger lips and smoother forehead, but also a financial incentive structure (such as the hostess receiving free treatments, along with guests who bring their friends).

Sounds too good to be true, eh? Well, perhaps because it probably is…

Plastic party vs medical clinic

It must be taken into account that one of the big differences between having a cosmetic treatment in a casual party setting to that of a clinic, is that in a professional medical room, the patient is at the core of the treatment – and not the treatment itself.  This involves the patient making an appointment willingly, and at a convenient time for them and the doctor.

Furthermore, the patient receives informed consent forms explaining the procedure and all of its risks, while being able to sign these legal documents in a sober state. Most importantly, they are not being influenced by the ambience of a crowd or by peer pressure. What follows then is the consultation with the doctor performing the aesthetic procedure, where it’s certainly not just a matter of ‘who’s next for their lip fillers?’ party scenario. A proper aesthetic medical consultation involves a number of aspects that will be difficult to achieve during a house (or hotel) party.

The doctor also needs to understand various things about a patient coming for an aesthetic procedure to ensure that the treatment is safe, suitable and appropriate. A medical questionnaire may be sufficient to obtain such information, but the one-on-one professional consultation and evaluation of the patient’s face, health and condition is very much affected in a social environment. A lack of focus probably describes it best.

In addition, the sterility of procedures, instruments and environment where these ‘parties’ are performed are questionable. Not to mention the obvious fact that it is a regulatory and medico-legal nightmare, with many professional doctors preferring not to walk on a landmine field.

That said however, there are positive reports from those who’ve attended such parties, where they found them to be conducted in a very professional and sterile manner. Yet this still does not change the fact that there are reasons why such events are not endorsed, and are in fact, illegal.

So, let’s take the most professional and most sterile injection party… what is lacking?

Patient privacy is a difficulty to start off with, while decision-making is certainly influenced. Then there are medical regulations about incentivising treatments, which can get the doctor into serious trouble (this is the biggest risk for the doctor, as there are numerous regulations that are not followed).

And that’s not all…

Looking at research on this matter from various countries and sources, it seems that there’s so much more happening at these parties – things that I didn’t even know about before reading up on this. For instance, some parties really spice it up with not only alcohol, but also drugs, black market fillers and injections – with non-medical professionals performing the treatments to boot.

Without involving these extremes, what are the concerns about such injection parties?

  • Doctor-patient trust relationship – The consultation is affected greatly, with the focus being compromised for both parties. It would really be difficult to have each patient feel like they are at the center of the decision making and treatment.
  • Patient privacy is most certainly compromised.
  • Sterility is doubted. Not only may the working surface area, the devices, medicines and instruments be affected, but the transportation of the equipment and medication to the venue may compromise the sterility.
  • Emergency medical care – While not commonly needed for aesthetic medical procedures, it’s not excluded from this field of medicine. Allergic and anaphylactic reactions may occur, especially when there are anesthetic creams or injections. And although filler injections are wonderful, it must be noted that accidental injection into a blood vessel may result in loss of skin or even vision. Furthermore, certain agents used in chemical peels can also have an effect on the heart rate, and in specific patients, may lead to irregular heartbeats (dysrhythmias).
  • Complications care – If everything goes well, most treatments require a mere 10 to 15 minutes. But when something goes wrong, this set-up lacks the equipment and tools to manage complications.
  • Medical decision-making is affected for both the doctor and the patient. For instance, if the doctor decides that you are not suitable for a treatment, but your friend is, it puts everybody in a difficult and awkward situation.
  • Medical evaluation of the area to be treated may also be compromised. Doctor’s offices are designed for optimal light and positioning for proper evaluation and investigating of danger zones. In addition, aesthetic doctors perform computerised skin evaluation systems that look deeper into the layers.
  • Medical regulations and the national health act – There are a number of acts and regulations contravened in such events, which involve not only a ‘suitable medical environment’ but also the financial, incentivising, canvassing and touting, patient privacy and other rules. Should one really want to host such events, it’s best to consult a medico-legal professional in such a matter before the invitations are even thought of.
  • Alcohol and medical treatments are really not friends. I understand that many parties only give alcohol to those not wanting to do the treatments, but after a glass or two, you may change your mind. Not only are there numerous medical reasons why it’s dangerous, but your judgments are most certainly not the same.

Final thought

We know that humans are very social creatures (some more than others), hence you may still feel these parties appealing. If so, a solution could be to host educational events and invite a doctor (or more than one) to explain the aesthetic medical procedures and the risks involved.

The good news is that this can be done while you sip on your glass of champagne while listening. In fact, the hostess might even convince you to buy a new miracle cream that will make you look 10 years younger in just seven days.

In a nutshell, what have you got to lose? A little bit of money, yes, but at least not your face.

Written by Dr Riekie Smit, owner at Vivacite Medical Centres www.drriekie.co.za

Dr Riekie Smit

Dr Riekie Smit Bio – MBChB, MSc Sports Med, Adv Dip Aesth Med – Art, aesthetic medicine and science are her passions. Dr Smit is both a lecturer and trainer for local and international congresses and courses, and is the honorary secretary of AAMSSA (the Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Medicine Society of South Africa). Additionally, she is a faculty member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, and her greatest interest is in treating facial ageing, skin ageing and sun damage. Dr Smit is also an advisor and part of numerous research and development teams, products and treatments.

A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice. 

Issue 30 – September 2019 (Winter)

This article was written by Dr Riekie Smit and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine June 2019 Edition (Issue 30). 

A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skin care, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).

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